The Blackhawks threw everything they had at us in the first two games. We lost game one to simple mistakes and a few bad bounces. We won game two by just out-performing in the clutch. Game three was a different story. The Bruins continued to bring everything they had. The Blackhawks on the other hand seemed lost. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville attempted to mimic the magic in Claude Julien’s improvised line strategy in game two.(Three of the Bruins last four goals were delivered by the new ‘third’ line.) Instead of making magic, he made a confused raucous that seemed to only further inhibit the Blackhawks. In the end, Tuukka got his first Stanley Cup Playoff Final shutout in a 2-0 win.
What should we expect to see in Game Four?
The Bruins won 71.4% of their face-offs in game three. The entire Blackhawks team won sixteen face-offs. Patrice Bergeron won nine by himself. We can expect to see more of that tonight. That has been the biggest weakness of the Chicago Blackhawks so far this series. They are a heavy puck management team. When you win only of a quarter of your face-offs you can not effectively control the puck the way you want to, and that leads to early frustration. That frustration was evident on the faces of the Blackhawks, and it led to sloppy plays and unnecessary penalties. (Dave Bolland’s three penalties later in the game sapped Chicago’s opportunity to gain momentum.)
Power play goals have been at a premium for both teams. In this final however, Boston has found a way to wake-up and start chipping those pucks in with the man advantage. They went 1-for-4 in Game three, and the Bruins finally seem comfortable on the power play. Chicago on the other hand has been abysmal. There was a running joke earlier in the regular season that the Bruins may have wanted to decline certain penalties in order to stick with a more comfortable 5-on-5 paradigm. It seems Chicago is finding themselves in that situation now.
This will likely be another low scoring goalie duel between Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask. At the beginning of the finals, Corey Crawford was edging out Tuukka Rask in several categories, what a difference a few games make. While Crawford’s stats are impressive (13-7-2, 1SO 1.74 GAA, .936% save percentage), they are starting to be dwarfed by Rask (14-5-2, 3SO, 1.64 GAA, .946% save percentage, .960 save against Chicag0) The Boston’s collapsible defense has out shined Chicago’s defense, allowing Bruins to get in close on Crawford for those second chance opportunities. Last game, Tuukka probably got one of the easiest shutouts in his career. His team was there for him, and they covered any breaches that occurred.
While Marian Hossa is back in the line up for game four, it’s still questionable if he’ll be able to tough the game out. He was listed as ‘day-to-day’ with an upper body injury. It will likely lead the Blackhawks to try and come up with effective combinations to silence players like David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Patrice Bergeron. At the moment, the Bruins have found a way to contain Chicago powerhouses Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews. Chicago will need to find a fifth gear to beat Boston, and I honestly don’t think they’ve got it in them. The ‘fight’ at the end of game three where Zdeno Chara essentially threw Brian Bickell to the ice summed up the Boston/Chicago series. To this point, the Bruins have just out-powered a Chicago team that relies on finesse.
Sure a rapier is a very beautiful weapon, but it can’t hack down a door like a battle axe.
Game Prediction: Hossa will not be effective as Chicago hopes, the improvised ‘Full Meal’ line will find a way to score on Crawford again, and the Blackhawks will still find no effective response to the wall that is Tuukka Rask. Game four will be a 3-1 win for Boston.